The Delights and Demands of Obedience
The Delights and Demands of Obedience
Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34
The one word which sums up the Christian life in its entirety is the term obedience. It is a word which characterized the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and it is a word which should characterize each of our lives. In a striking passage in Hebrews 5:8-9 we read these words concerning Him: "though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." In Philippians 2, there are similar words to describe the self-emptying of the Son of God and how it applies to us: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross". So the Master set the standard of obedience; we can do no less than seek the enabling of the Holy Spirit to live out, in terms of daily experience, the practice of obedience. Observe first:
I. The Demands of Obedience-"... Jesus answered at His baptism and said ... 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). In the New Living, Jesus puts it this way: “It should be done, for we carry out all that God requires.” Although there is a sense in which the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ is unique and incomparable, there are principles of obedience in this act of our Savior which we do well to examine and emulate. As He faced His baptism, there were three demands which pleased His Father in this matter of obedience:
1) The Reality of a True Confession-"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him" (Matthew 3:13). Up until now the Master had lived in relative obscurity. For 30 years He had lived humbly and worked industriously in the little town of Nazareth. Now God's hour had struck; it was time for Him to enter upon His momentous ministry.
Like the priests of old who commenced their service for God with the cleansing of water, so Jesus presented Himself for baptism on the banks of the River Jordan. This was His public confession. He was marking Himself out to be both the Lamb of God and the Son of God. John the Baptist had been forewarned by God that One would appear whose very bearing, speech and presence would distinguish Him as the Redeemer of the world. How carefully this rugged preacher must have examined the faces of those who came to hear him preach in order that He might recognize the true Messiah! And then the day came when the Holy Spirit witnessed to him that here, indeed, was the Lamb of God and the Son of God.
John said of Jesus in John 1:29: "… Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" What a beautiful description of Jesus. A lamb speaks of sacrifice and humility and submission Of Jesus it is recorded that He was "… led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). But a lamb also speaks of separation. This animal is distinguished in the Old Testament as having the cloven hoof, reminding us of the separated walk. Is it any wonder the writer to the Hebrews could say that He was "… holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners …"? (Hebrews 7:26) Our true Shepherd, on the day of His baptism, made a true confession. This afternoon Greg and Joanne will also confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior before entering the waters of baptism, but Jesus had no sins of His own to confess. He chose to identify Himself with the human race in baptism. By stepping down into the waters of the Jordan, He was declaring that He would die, be buried and rise again, for the redemption of mankind. When we take our stand in baptism, we likewise declare that we intend to follow Jesus in a life of death and burial to self and of resurrected union with our glorified Lord. This is what Paul means when he says in Romans 6:4, "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life"
As Jesus emerged from the waters of baptism, the Spirit witnessed to John the Baptist that this was indeed the Son of God: "And John bore witness, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God" (John 1:32-34).
If our confession in baptism is genuine, then we should be able to show to a skeptical world that we have become partakers of the divine nature. We can be known as the children of God John 1:12 states: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”
This is the reality of a true confession. There should be clearly seen in us the characteristics of the Lamb of God and the Son of God: sacrifice and submission and separation. We sacrifice our will to God. We submit to His plan for our life and we walk separate from the world. This is obedience
2) At His Baptism Jesus Also Showed The Resoluteness of a True Submission When Jesus requested to be baptized, John forbade Him saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" (Matthew 3:14). It was then that Jesus answered in the language of true submission, "… Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness …" (Matthew 3:15). Here was: willing, worthy, and wholehearted submission.
a) Willing Submission-"… Permit it to be so now …" (Matthew 3:15). Jesus wanted nothing to hinder His obedience. How characteristic this was of our Lord's willing obedience and submission! Even before He came to earth we hear Him saying, prophetically, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the Book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, Oh my God, And Your law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:7-8). During His ministry He spoke similar words: "… My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34). And then we are reminded of the tremendous words He uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He agonized in prayer: "… if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39). What submission! – following the will of God. We, too, are asked by God to follow His will. We pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Is it your desire to relinquish your will to the will of the Father? That is one of the demands of obedience.
b) Not Only Was Jesus Willingly Submitting, it Was A Worthy Submission- To Him, submission to the will of God was the most fitting thing in all the world. So often people perform the will of God as if they were doing Him a favor. How can anyone stoop to such impertinence as to even suggest that God can’t manage without us? God wants our prayers. Yes, God wants our service. Yes. But God can manage without us, can’t He? Our prayers and service will cause us to be blessed. Oh yes! Anything less than the will of God is sin, whereas, to bow in willing submission to God's demands is not only right and proper, but worthy of our blessed Lord.
c) Then, Lastly, Observe Jesus Wholehearted Submission-"… Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness …" (Matthew 3:15). Mark that little word all. In the life of the Lord Jesus, every i was dotted and every t was crossed, in terms of His submission and obedience. Anything less than fulfilling all righteousness was not obedience to Him.
The prophet Samuel could say, "… to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22). Sacrifice and the fat of rams are meaningless offerings if there is not wholehearted obedience in the life. Jesus was resolute in His true submission to God. We should be too!
3) Now, Let’s Note The Responsiveness of a True Devotion-"… This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). God could have never expressed these words concerning His beloved Son unless there was the responsiveness of true devotion in Jesus’ heart. If we examine this glorious commendation from heaven, we see in it the expression of:
a) The Loving Devotion of Jesus-"… This is My beloved Son … " (Matthew 3:17). All true love is reciprocal. Because Jesus loved His Father with all His heart, soul, mind and strength, God said, "My beloved Son." What a challenge this is to us! We can never claim to respond to God out of devotion unless it is genuinely born of love for God. We are to love God because He first loved us. If 1 Corinthians 13 is the “love chapter” of the Bible then the book of 1 John is the “love book”. Thirty seven times the words “love” and “loved” are used. The apostle John wrote this book to his “dear children” so we might know a loving relationship with God as he did; as Jesus did. Jesus devotion was the epitomy of love – giving, dying, forgiving, blessing.
b) It Was The Pleasing Devotion of Jesus that Caused God to Say From Heaven -"… This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). The Greek reads: "This is My beloved Son in whom I have delight." God was pleased with His Son because the Son always did those things that pleased the Father. He said, '... I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:29). Later on, the apostle Paul could write: "For even Christ did not please Himself (Romans 15:3).
Heaven's comment on the pleasing devotion of Jesus Christ is even more remarkable when we recall that His life was, to this point, lived in relative seclusion. As far as we know from Scripture, He had never preached a sermon, cleansed a leper, raised the sick, calmed the seas, calmed the wind or broken bread to feed the hungry in the first thirty years of His life. As far as is surmised, His life up until now was lived in the intimacy of the home and the activity of a carpenter's workshop. But at the time of His baptism, Jesus’ devotion pleased His Father, and God could say, "… This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
II. There Are Demands of Obedience – Sacrifice, Submission, and Separation, but There are also Delights of Obedience-"Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"' (Matthew 3:16-17). Here in the language of love we have three delightful blessings flowing from the life of obedience:
1) First, at His Baptism Jesus Had the Blessing of Access to the Throne of God-"… behold, the heavens were opened to Him …" (Matthew 3:16). The first thing visible when the heaven is open is the throne. John the seer tells us this in the Book of Revelation: "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. … And behold, a throne …" (Rev. 4:1-2). For the believer, this is the throne of grace where "… we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). How significant it was that as Jesus came out of the waters of baptism "… He prayed [and] the heaven was opened" (Luke 3:21). An open heaven and a throne of grace are the delights of an obedient life.
Do you know the blessing of unbroken fellowship with an enthroned Lord? Have you been to the throne room of God lately? That is where you are when you boldly go to God in prayer. What a blessed delight to know we have access to the throne room of God just as Jesus did.
2) Secondly, at His Baptism, Jesus had The Blessing of the Spirit of God-"… the Spirit of God descending like a dove …" (Matthew 3:16). Here is the second blessing which issues from a life of obedience: the filling and anointing of the Spirit of the living God. When the apostles were put on trial, Peter testified that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (see Acts 5:32). “We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit who is given by God to those who obey Him.”
The Lord Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit from His mother's womb. There was never a time in those first 30 years when He was not filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet, it was not until His public baptism that He was anointed by that same Spirit for the ministry that lay ahead of Him.
The dove-like character of the Holy Spirit represents the requisites for effective service. Bound up in the symbolism of the dove is the thought of sacrifice, humility, and fruitfulness. God grants these to those who trust and obey.
3) And Lastly, at Jesus’ Baptism, He Received The Blessing of the Word of God-"And suddenly a voice came from heaven …" (Matthew 3:17). God only speaks to those who obey. Jesus put it this way: "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority" (John 7:17). Revelation and obedience are like two parallel lines. God only reveals while we obey.
If the voice of God is to be heard day by day through the word and prayer, then there must be willing, worthy and wholehearted obedience. We must be willing to wholeheartedly put God at the centre of our lives; only then will we be worthy.
We have seen what constitutes the blessing of obedience: first, the demands, and then, the delights. More than anything else, God make us men and women who are characterized by this great spiritual priority of obedience. … Let me close with this illustration: Can we willingly submit to God's plan for our lives? Look at the life of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, considered by many to be one of the greatest philanthropists of all time. He was trying to settle on his life's work. He had so many abilities-for music, for medicine, for teaching-and was a master in each of those fields. There were uncounted opportunities for him. … What was God's plan for him? One day he was cleaning off his desk. Among the papers there was a … magazine of the Paris Missionary Society. … He glanced through it and noticed an article entitled, "The Needs of the Congo Mission." He read the article, and when he finished Dr. Schweitzer said, "My search is over." He was willing to lose himself in God's plan. Are we also prepared to surrender our lives in obedience?